Bring Back Power Dressing?

Remember Power Dressing? It was a 1980s affectation. The idea was that both women and men dressed in particular ways to demonstrate their power, in particular in the working environment. For men, Power Dressing not only meant wearing an expensive looking suit; it also meant over stuffed shoulder pads, bold colours and probably included (red) suspenders.

Whilst I am as open as the next man to the rehabilitation of suspenders (even red ones) I am not talking about bringing back power dressing as it was in the 1980s (as amusing as that might be). The affectations described above have gone the way of all flesh and probably deserve to.

Nonetheless, it seems to me that we have lost something along the way. In a culture where informality is increasingly portrayed as normality there has been a corresponding decline in dress standards. It is now counter cultural to dress in a way that expresses something about your social standing or status.

In a world of tech geeks and dot.com millionaires, when the self made wealthy set are more likely to dress down as per Zuckerberg, Jobs, and Branson there is an increasingly common view that dressing smartly is of a different generation. Against that trend I say bring back Power Dressing.

I am talking about something a little subtler than big shoulder pads and suspenders. Instead I am talking about dressing not just for the job you already have but the one you would like to do next. I am talking about taking your profession sufficiently seriously that you get dressed sharply for work. I am talking about the fact that people respond to you differently depending on the way you are dressed.

We understand this when we go on interview. We dress in a way which is designed to cultivate a particular impression of ourselves. My question is, at what point do we decide that we no longer need to continue to cultivate a positive impression of ourselves?

If it is true (and I am persuaded that it is) that people respond to you differently depending on the way you are dressed, what possible reason could there be not to dress a way that elicits the most favourable   response from your peers, superiors and subordinates?

So I say bring back Power Dressing. However the object of the exercise is not to demonstrate how much power you wield by the size and cost of your wardrobe choices.  Instead, it is to be conscious that people size you up based on how you are dressed and to be intentional about dressing in particular ways for particular audiences. Believe it or not, this stuff matters.

So what do you think?

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3 thoughts on “Bring Back Power Dressing?

  1. Could not agree more. I think my fear is that modern management has instilled the ‘dress down’ ethos to quash what little power we had left in us. Those who dress smart are then the odd one and frequently the butt of jokes etc.

    1. I hear you Stockton1973.

      However unless there are some willing to buck the trend then the current malaise will continue. So do please continue to buck the trend and be the smart one in the office even if it means that you are occasionally the butt of the jokes.

      All the while, you quietly remain the most stylish in the room….

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